THE BLOG
08/25/2014 12:54 pm ET Updated Oct 03, 2014

How Burn-Out Saved My Life

The Power of Now has been staring at me. "I've already read you," I assert, brushing it off. Yet, after about a week of feeling pulled towards Eckhart Tolle's book, I decide to revisit it.

I blow dust off the cover and open to a page that I had enthusiastically annotated a few years prior. What had my 20-year-old self found so provocative about this particular passage? Is it really deserving of the nauseating number of exclamation points in the margins? I read the following:

"There is nothing wrong with striving to improve your life situation... Your life situation consists of your circumstances and your experiences. There is nothing wrong with setting goals and striving to achieve things. The mistake lies in using it as a substitute for the feeling of life, of Being. The only point of access for that is the Now."

I shake my head, smiling. Now I know why it had appealed to me.

I've always been an overachiever; that ridiculously type-A student whose popularity would predictably rise during finals. Front row? That was me. On a mission to succeed, my accomplishments manifested in the form of college acceptances, academic achievements and prestigious internships; yet, I was never totally satisfied. Once I'd get something, my mind would immediately jump, "Okay, that's done. What now? How do I accomplish the next thing? And the next thing?"

Until about a year ago, my life itself had become a means to an end. Yet, to what end? I didn't know. After graduating from Georgetown University, I was accepted into the Georgetown University Law Center and deferred to take a job as a teacher. However, I quickly worked myself into a deep depression by spending nights and weekends at a job I wasn't certain about. I completely neglected my well-being and, when I did attempt to take care of myself, felt guilty about not working -- for the sake of my students.

I was used to expending myself. Being fresh out of school, I believed I was merely "paying my dues" for a seemingly impressive career plan. Yet, I got to a point where I could no longer function. This led to a miraculous break down; one that morphed my prior perspective into something soulful, authentic and clear.

Before this experience, I had never asked myself when the cycle would stop, when I would get "there;" wherever there was supposed to be. This event forced me to pause and genuinely reflect for the first time in, well, I can't remember.

As I re-read the above paragraph from Tolle's book, a question comes to mind: How can I embody this seemingly elusive "Being;" how can I be in the "Now," while still moving forward to improve my life situation? Doesn't being in the present moment consist of, like, doing nothing? I slap my hand against my forehead in frustration.

Then it hit me. In looking for satisfaction, validation and self-worth through my accomplishments, I'd missed the whole point. I'd been anticipating the end result of my endeavors as opposed to immersing myself in the process, in each step along the way. What I'd failed to realize is that the purpose of life is Life. That's Being. Being isn't an action. It's what we embody when we're so engulfed in, and invigorated by, a project, activity or even doing "nothing," that time ceases to exist.

We can use goals and plans that we're excited about as a way to express Being. We run into problems, however, when we allow our plans to dominate us; when we drive ourselves crazy to "get somewhere" in order to fill a void. This often results in more stress, lack of self-care and an underlying dissatisfaction with our situation and ourselves.

We believe that the "next" accomplishment (for real this time) will be the one that satisfies us. Yet, when we do this, we only delude ourselves. The initial feeling doesn't last because we're chasing an illusion. In reality, there is nowhere to go. The journey itself is the destination.

According to Tolle, "Life is your deepest inner Being. It is already whole, complete, perfect." By honoring and embodying Being, our outward accomplishments merely become the inspired results of a life fully lived.

Every action, whether it be writing an article, applying for a job or snacking on an apple, is worthy of being embraced, enjoyed and savored for what it is. When we choose to live life this way, each moment becomes saturated with meaning. We feel juicy, creative and free. We're not struggling in our attempt to strive towards goals. We're just living -- fully present in our lives.

Now I understand why I picked up The Power of Now. I needed this reminder. I click away at the keyboard, smiling as sentences spill onto the page. The time catches my eye and I can't help but laugh. It's been a while. As it turns out, I'm living this piece. Every. Single. Word.

For more information on Eckhart Tolle click here

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.